Top of the Horsepower Tree

Top of the Horsepower Tree

Not that long ago most (if not all) of Europe’s truck makers were still vying to climb to the top of the horsepower tree, reckons Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Brian Weatherley. Today it’s another story altogether. I’d say the first truck maker to publicly take its foot off the power pedal was Mercedes.

Top of the Horsepower Tree

Back in 2011, at the launch of the original ‘new’ Actros, I asked Daimler’s vice president for truck engineering Georg Weiburg ‘Do you want to have the World’s Most Powerful Series Production Truck’? High torque, rather than high horsepower was, he said, the priority for Mercedes and 600hp was probably as high as most operators needed.

It was an insightful reply. Indeed, when Merc’s 15.6 litre OM473 LA in-line six (currently offered in Actros and Arocs) appeared in 2013 it had a 630hp top rating. Despite having the capacity to go higher, it’s stayed there, happily sitting above 580 and 520hp versions.

It’s been a similar story for MAN. Having once made Europe’s most powerful prime mover, a TGX with a whopping 680hp 16.2-litre V8, in 2014 the men from Munich dropped their vee-block in favour of the all-new D38 15.2-litre six-pot. While D38 comes with a top-rating of 640hp and 3,000Nm of torque, note this, it’s strictly-for heavy-haulage chassis applications up to 250-tonnes GCW.

For ‘regular’ haulage applications, D38 is rated at 520hp/2,500Nm and 560hp/2,700Nm. Having driven both at 40 tonnes at the launch, the 520hp D38 was more than enough for me, and why wouldn’t it be with 11.8hp/tonne on tap? At the time of its launch, MAN’s senior managers went out of their way to stress that with D38 they wanted maximum efficiency rather than record power. At the time that struck me as eminently sensible. It still does.

What about the others? Back in 1992 Renault briefly led the field when it offered a 520hp Mack V8 beneath its iconic flat-floored Magnum cab. Today, its latest T-range prime mover’s 13-litre ‘DTI 13’ in-line six delivers an identical 520hp, albeit with 2,550Nm of torque.

As for Iveco, its 12.8-litre Cursor 13 fitted in Stralis peaks at 570hp. And while Fiat Powertrain Technologies (the company which supplies Iveco with its engines) has a 15.9-litre Cursor 16 capable of being rated up to 875hp and 3,500Nm of torque, it’s only available for construction, power-generation and agricultural applications. In the latter category it’s already chalked-up its first ‘World’s Most Powerful…’ superlative, in the 625hp New Holland Agriculture CR10.90 combine harvester.

Might we yet see a Cursor 16 powering a European heavy?  If you took the amount of money you’d need to engineer it into a Stralis or Trakker, then divided it by the number of vehicles you’d sell in Europe, you’d probably have to charge a heck of a lot for it just to recover the investment. Ah…but what about for Australia I hear you ask? I’ll come to that in a minute.